One of the most common questions thrown my way is, “Where can I find a nice blend?”
The main problem with this question is the common misconception of the word “blend” as it pertains to wine.
Many common wines including Bordeaux, Cote du Rhone, & Amarone are in fact blends not single varietals. If we look at French and Italian wines, we find blends comprised of guaranteed grape varietals. When we look at Australia or the United States, the blends become more and more estranged as time progresses.
Historic laws exist in France and Italy, therefore locking in the sanctity of the blend and prohibiting a vintner’s interpretation. These laws do not exist in the United States, and other New World countries, allowing for creative license with the final creation. In the United States bottles with one varietal on the label are typically only required to contain approximately 75% of the stated grape. In plain English, who knows what that other 25% is.
This is not necessarily a bad thing. Imagine if you will, a world where all wines taste exactly the same. Same soil, same climate, same flavor… boring. Winemakers in the regions which can add 25% of “other grapes” are afforded the ability to display a level of finesse in their final product. Their wines compliment their unique personalities and thus we are afforded the ability to choose wines more suited to our individual palettes.
Blend, Meritage, & Proprietary
So, as we discussed, most varietals are often “blended.” This is not always the case, for example; you can get a Chardonnay that is 100% Chard and nothing else. Many of the names for blends are region specific and cannot be used for wines produced outside of the region.
What we haven’t touched on is the blending of grapes not traditionally grown together in any specific region. There is no special name for this kind of blending and the grape varietals are usually listed on the bottle, or not at all. Our popular Gewurztraminer, Riesling, Moscato blend, Tre, is a perfect example of this.
Meritage- Meritage is a category of blended wine. In order to be able to use the term, the winery must be a member of the Meritage Association. Specifically, the wine has must be blended entirely from Bordeaux grape varietals, with no more than 90 percent of any single grape. Yup, you read that right, at least 10% have to be a different varietal. Plain English: Must Blend.
Proprietary- While you see it frequently on labels, especially in California, proprietary wines don’t actually have a legal definition in the United States. Typically the term is stamped on wine labels where the grape varietals aren’t listed, meaning the wine is blended from several components and they are not required to provide that information.